The weaknesses of Purdue basketball this past season have been well documented. Boilermaker coach Matt Painter didn't always like the maturity of his team, its work ethic, some specific players' efforts, and a number of guys' decision making. All of which led to a losing record (16-18) since Painter's first season as head coach in 2005-06 (9-19).
“”The main thing for us is that each individual guy has to take a hard look at himself and work on things in a constructive manner to get better as an individual,” Painter said. “But also help Purdue. Each guy is a little bit different.”
However, a lot of those weaknesses can be shaded by one aspect of play – strong shooting.
Painter has been emphatic this spring that he wants to improve the shooting of his team entering next season by either within the current Purdue roster or by adding a player with one of three available scholarships.
Purdue struggled in making a lot of 3-point shots last season (last in the 12-team conference with just 4.3 makes per game) and particularly at the free throw line (11th in the Big 10 with a 63.5 percent rate).
“We're still trying to work through recruiting here in the spring to try and bring somebody else in that can shoot the basketball,” Painter said.
One of the 2013-14 opponents that the Boilermakers will need good shooting against was learned on Wednesday, as the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conferences unveiled the field for the 15th-annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Purdue will host Boston College on Dec. 4 at Mackey Arena.
Painter is seeking improvement in his team's shooting from “hopefully all of the players.” But having lost redshirt sophomore Anthony Johnson to a transfer, he'll have to rely upon returning guards Ronnie (16.7 percent from 3-point range) and Terone Johnson (34.6 percent).
“When Terone takes rhythm 3s, he's a good 3-point shooter,” Painter said. “But he just doesn't always take a good shot.”
Purdue fans cringed much of last season when Ronnie Johnson pulled up from long range, but Painter has evidence that the sophomore-to-be can be a threat from the perimeter.
“Ronnie shot 40 percent as a senior in high school,” Painter explained. “You might not think that after watching him last year, but he took a bunch of shots at the start of the season that were out of rhythm, having 25 seconds on the shot clock, he just didn't take the right shot. We finally just said 'Stop shooting them.' He didn't understand that this is about Purdue. This about us getting a good shot every time down the floor.”
Boiler freshman Rapheal Davis only sank 10 3-pointers last season, but seemingly made more as the season wore on. The Fort Wayne native finished by hitting just over 30 percent of his attempts.
“Rapheal has such a good work ethic,” Painter explained, “I don't think that he can be a great 3-point shooter, but from an opportunistic standpoint, when they give it to him, he'll be able to knock it down. I know that he is going to put in the time to work.”
Interestingly, Painter is putting his most trust in incoming freshman Kendall Stephens. The son of former Boiler great Everette Stephens, is recovering from injuring his shoulder twice last season.
“The guy who can shoot the best on our (2013-14) team is Kendall,” Painter said. “But obviously, he's not played college basketball yet.”
In last season's Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Boilermakers won at Clemson to bring their Challenge winning streak to four games and even their all-time Challenge record at 6-6. The Big Ten claimed its fourth-consecutive Commissioner's Cup in 2012 by way of a 6-6 tie.
Purdue has won both previous meetings with Boston College, each coming on a neutral floor. The Boilers scored an 82-54 win in Honolulu on Dec. 28, 1978, and claimed a 71-64 victory at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 26, 2008, behind a 19-point effort from then-sophomore E'Twaun Moore.
2013 Big Ten/ACC Challenge
Florida State at Minnesota
Illinois at Georgia Tech
Indiana at Syracuse
Michigan at Duke
Notre Dame at Iowa
Penn State at Pittsburgh
Boston College at Purdue
Maryland at Ohio State
Miami at Nebraska
North Carolina at Michigan State
Northwestern at North Carolina State
Wisconsin at Virginia